By: Charles Rollet
Two journalism students from Northwestern in Qatar were arrested and then released hours later for filming an explosion at a local gas station, Doha News reports. The explosion caused no casualties.
Usama Hamed and Mahgoub Karrar, both seniors, appear to have been arrested for filming the police without permission. They were taken downtown and released in the evening.
It’s far from Hamed’s first brush with the police; in May 2012, he was beaten up by policemen and jailed for ten days following his attempt to film the inside of a burnt-out mall.
This time, Hamed told Doha News he’d learned his lesson and kept the camera as far away as possible, but was arrested anyways.
As was the case for Hamed’s jailing last year, police confiscated the cameras, which belong to NU-Q. Hamed and Karrar were also required to sign a statement saying they could be called in for further questioning.
The incident is yet another example of the difficulties journalism students at NU-Q face operating in Qatar, where they are often arrested or detained for their reporting. In response to the latest arrest, NU-Q sophomore Alanood Al-Thani tweeted about Qatar’s highly sensitive reporting environment:
— Alanood Al-Thani (@Al_Anood) September 28, 2013
Just this Wednesday, NU-Q held a session on reporting boundaries and media laws in the Gulf state. The two-part workshop was created to deal with criticism NU-Q faced following THE CHRONICLE’s article on Hamed’s jailing.
University administrators at the workshop struck a cautiously optimistic note, saying freedom of the press was “slowly” gaining ground:
“It’s gotten a lot better, I don’t see students being hassled so much right now as they were at first,” senior associate dean Richard Roth told The Daily Q. “But if you get in a jam, get a hold of somebody at the university and we will do what we can to get you out of it.”
But skepticism remains. “However, many students have questioned the extent the help NU-Q will provide them if they are stopped by security personnel or the police,” the article read.
One of those skeptical students was Hamed himself, who was quoted in the article saying:“although students are being informed about these laws, the school has limits in the support they can offer to students outside the classroom.”